‘On Earth as in Heaven’–a Great Compendium

‘On Earth as in Heaven’–a Great Compendium June 7, 2024

The Bible of course is a compendium– a book composed of originally separate books, letters etc.  This book is also a compendium, curated by Tom Wright’s son Oliver.  The book is set up according to the church year (excerpts for Advent, Christmas, Lent Easter etc.) but there are also subject sub-headings like Truth, Spirituality, Beauty etc.   The excerpts come from 12 of Tom’s previous more lay and clergy friendly volumes, not his more scholarly or technical books.  So, we have excerpts from books that emerged from 2004 to 2020, and in addition there are excerpts from his own translation entitled the The Kingdom NT.  If you are wondering which books this one is drawn from they are: 1) After you Believe; 2) Broken Sign Posts, 3) How God became King, 4) Paul a Biography,  5) Scripture and the Authority of God; 6) Simply Christian; 7) Simply Good News; 8) Simply Jesus; 9) Surprised by Hope;  10) Surprised by Scripture; 11) The Case for the Psalms; and 12) The Day the Revolution Began.  All of these are published by Harper One.

I decided to use this book as a daily devotional or sorts for the past year, and I am very glad I did.  This is by no means your usual devotional book, which sadly can tip over into a sort of Gnostic piety far removed from the historical and theological substance of the NT.  In short, this is not Chicken Soup for the Soul,  indeed, it is a compendium that front lights eschatology, and is highly critical of devotional books that are too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.  Here the focus is on the eschatological present and future– as we look forward to the new creation, the corporate merger of heaven and earth, which of course is what we are praying for in saying ‘thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.  In short, dying and going to heaven, despite many revival hymns of the 18th through 2oth century (like ‘When We All Get to Heaven…’) have placed the emphasis where the NT definitely doesn’t place the emphasis.  Note that only about 2% of the NT talks about being ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord’, and note that even ancient Christian funeral liturgy says ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection’  and NO, we do not get our resurrection bodies when we die.  That comes when Christ returns and the dead in Christ are raised.  So this book cannot be accused of advocating ‘disembodied spirituality’, and as such is spiritual nourishing in a more Biblical way.   The alert reader of this blog may have noted I have been adding here and there in the last 6 months, blog post excerpts I found from reading this book, but attributing them to the original book source.

This book is not sectarian in character, by which I mean it can be used right across the spectrum of orthodox Christianity whether Catholic, Orthodox, or the various sorts of Protestantism, with great profit.   I looked forward at the end of each day to read an excerpt or two before turning out the lights, and I’ll bet you can get as much benefit out of this book as I have.  It may be called Tom Wright’s greatest hits for laity, but frankly that says too little.  These excerpts tease the mind into active thought, restore the spirit when one is discouraged about the state of Christendom,  and helps us all re-embrace the fact that the future is as bright as the promises of God, as a great missionary once said.  Like the voice that once exhorted Augustine to pick up the Bible, I would echo that  voice and say ‘pick it up and read it’  cover to cover.

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